American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets)
New York, NY 10023
Open: Sunday 12:00pm-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-7:30pm/Friday 12:00pm-7:30pm/Saturday 11:30am-7:30pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
I recently visited the American Folk Art Museum in New York City for the “Made in New York City” exhibition and it is a very interesting and engaging museum. The artwork for the museum was a combination of painting, sculpture, pottery and metal work created at different periods of the City’s history. It really showed the extent of manufacturing in New York City and the craftsmanship that was once here.
The paintings of Colonial New York
Some of the interesting things you will see are the paintings by artists in both Colonial New York and from the Hudson River School of prominent New Yorkers through its first 200 years of history. You will see how the styles of art have changed over the years.
Also there is a lot of metal work in the ways of signs and rods for the front of doors and for the roofs. The woodwork carvings that once graced the front doors of merchants all over the City is now a lost art. Here you could see the works of German and Russian carvers and the craftsmanship that was put into every piece. It was interesting too to see the racial themes and stereotypes that were used in the art.
Wood Carvings and Metal work in the “Made in New York City” exhibition
Another program that the museum does well is they have afternoon Jazz Wednesdays and Free Concerts on Friday nights. There are family programs, walking tours, curator talks and lectures as part of the museum programming so there is something for everyone.
The American Folk Art Mission:
Since 1961, the American Folk Art Museum has been shaping the understanding of art by the self-taught through its exhibitions, publications and educational programs. As a center of scholarship and by showcasing the creativity of individuals whose singular talents have been refined through experience rather than formal artistic training, the museum considers the historical, social and artistic context of American culture. Its collection includes more than seven thousand artworks dating from the eighteenth century to the present, from compelling portraits and dazzling quilts to powerful works by living self-taught artists in a variety of mediums (Museum bio).
Self-Taught art, past and present, tells empowering stories of everyday life. The field of American folk art was first defined at the turn of the twentieth century by collectors, professional artists, critics, dealers and curators whose search for an authentic American Art seemed to be finally answered in works that presented a nuanced of national identity, faith, progress, ingenuity, community and individuality. Under the umbrella of “folk art” expanded to also include artists working in the present. For the last twenty years, the term self-taught has more regularly come to address these artists, whose inspiration emerges from unsuspected paths and unconventional places, giving voice to individuals who may be situated outside the social mainstream. Those individuals have been active participants in the shaping of American visual culture, influencing generations of artists and establishing lively artistic traditions (Museum History).
American Folk Art Museum History:
The museum of Early American Folk Arts as it was known initially held its first exhibition in a rented space on 49 West 53rd Street in 1961. The museum’s collection was launched in 1962 with the gift of a gate in the form of an American flag, celebrating the nation’s centennial. The gift reflected the museum’s early focus on eighteenth and nineteenth century vernacular arts from the northeast America.
In 1966, after receiving a permanent charter, the museum expanded its name and mission. As the Museum of American Folk Arts, it looked beyond the traditional definitions of American folk art. Its exhibitions and collection began to reflect “every aspect of the folk arts in America-north, south, east and west.” Founding curator Herbert W. Hemphill Jr. “expanded the notion of folk art beyond traditional, utilitarian and communal expressions.” Under his direction, the museum began to champion idiosyncratic and individualistic artwork from the fields of traditional and contemporary folk art. In doing so, the museum ushered in a new era in the field of twentieth-century folk art (Museum History).
The 1990’s brought new focus to the diversity and multiculturalism of American Folk Art. Offering a more inclusive vision. the museum began to present African American and Latino artworks in their exhibitions and permanent collections. Director Gerard C. Wertikin announced American folk art’s common heritage as “promoting an appreciation of diversity in a way that does not foster ethnic chauvinism or racial division.” (Museum History).
The museum further established its broadened outlook with the 1998 formation of the Contemporary Center, a division of the museum devoted to the work of 20th and 21st century self-taught artists as well as non-American artworks in the tradition of European art brut. In 2001, the museum opened the Henry Darger Center to house 24 self-taught artist’s works as well as a collection of his books, tracings, drawing and source materials (Museum History).
The new home of the American Folk Art Museum
In 2001, the museum chose its current name, American Folk Art Museum. Recognizing that American Fold Art could be fully understood in an international context, the word American functions as an indication of the museum’s location, emphasis and principal patronage rather than as a limitation on the kind of art it collects, interprets or presents. The museum’s current programming reflects this shift in focus. Past exhibits have included folk arts of Latin America, England, Norway, among other countries and continents (Museum history).
Don’t miss this amazing little museum on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.